Danny was second guessing his decision to lead a raid into a building full of nasty people. His head throbbed like no other, and the sheer weight of the task at hand seemed to slow him down, too.

When they entered, all men drew on them, forcing them to fire in turn. Even with a gun in Franco's less than steady hand, they were severely outnumbered.

Still, they had the element of surprise, and so Danny saw half of the ten or so men felled before the enemy got off a shot.

He fired, taking down a weedy guy, before diving to avoid a bullet, rolling back up despite the protest to his head. Righting himself, he fired off another couple rounds. Kono popped a guy, and each of the SEALs managed to off another. Chin's explosive shotgun nearly ripped a guy in half.

A flash caught his eye. He turned, but it was for naught, because Speers put a bullet in Danny's assailant before the other man could even aim.

"That's for Pinks, you bastard," he spat. Danny looked down at the regal looking man on the floor. He wasn't sure, but he had a feeling the man- now sporting a very fashionable hole between the eyes- was Petrov.

There was a problem though, Danny noticed, and it was that Ivanov was nowhere to be found.

"Spread out! Find him!" was all he needed to say.

And then he spotted the open door. The one he'd used to escape. The one he was sure he politely closed behind him after he left.

Danny, gun in front, whipped around the open door. All he could see was Ivanov's silhouette, back turned.

"Ivanov!" He cried. No answer.

There was a flash of something and an ominous bang and Danny, without thinking, fired his weapon too. Ivanov stood for a moment, and then slumped to the ground, a gun clattering uselessly away from him.

The man's fallen form revealed Steve McGarrett, who had stood a few feet from the man, hidden originally by his adversary.

"Steve?" Danny looked at his partner. He didn't get much of a response, really. Steve looked up to meet Danny's eye for just a moment, and then he directed his attention to his own chest.

Danny's heart skipped a beat; a dot of red was growing on Steve's shirt, a few inches below his heart. Steve looked down at his torso for a moment, before crumpling to the ground.

"STEVE!" Danny raced over to his fallen partner.

"Wake up, buddy," Danny slapped the man none- too- gently on the cheek. Feeling for a pulse, he was relieved to find Steve respond with a slow but perpetually beating heart. He put both hands on Steve's chest to try and keep in as much blood as possible, but it was like trying to stop a river from flowing with just a couple of useless rocks.

Kono ran outside, Chin hot on her heels.

"Call an ambulance!" He cried, his voice cracking. She nodded, and began relaying instructions to the person on the receiving end.

Steve opened his eyes. He looked up at Danny and frowned.

"I'm… so sorry Danno," he said quietly, his mouth having trouble forming the words.

"You should be, you useless, self- sacrificing bastard," Danny said with absolutely no conviction. "Did you know your cover was blown when you sent me trekking through the forest?"

Steve managed to smile a little. "Not until… after you left." He coughed, and blood spilled out of his mouth onto his shirt.

"Wow, buddy," Danny said worriedly, eying the blood with growing apprehension.

"I'm fine."

"Yeah, and I'm a yellow octopus."

Steve tried to laugh, but stopped when it just produced another round of coughing. "Always the comedian, Danno."

Danny smiled despite himself.

Speers walked over to his fallen officer, supporting Franco with his left hand. Both eased to the ground beside Steve, as Chin and Kono stood right behind. Danny was glad Steve was still lucid and, thank god, breathing; it would not do well for these men to see another of their team fall.

Come to think of it, Danny wouldn't have been happy either.

"Hey, Commander," Speers said, placing a hand on Steve's shoulder gently.

Steve looked up at his men, and Danny should not have been surprised that, even bleeding onto the ground, Steve was still every bit the Commander that his men respected.

"Where is Officer Pinkleman's body, soldier?" He asked, and Danny could see he was exerting a great effort now to speak at all.

"On the ridge, sir," was the reply.

"See to it…" he grimaced and tried to take a breath, "… that someone gets his tags, soldier."

"Yes sir!" There was no hesitation in Speers' voice.

"Davis…"

"He's fine, sir. He's with Goodich."

Steve's eyes widened and he coughed again, forcing more blood onto his chin. Danny put more pressure on the hole in his partner's chest, but it was hardly doing anything now. Either the medics would arrive to this desolate place in time, or they would not. Danny forced himself not to dwell on the latter possibility.

"No!" Steve began to struggle a little, and Speers had to place a hand on his chest.

"Speers…"

"Sir?"

"The Russians… have Davis bought and paid for… Call Goodich…. Get him… out…"

Steve could say no more. He could hardly breathe at this point. Kono was beginning to tear up, and Chin even let a small amount of pain through his mask.

"Damnit Steve!" Danny cried in frustration.

"Danno…"

Steve's pupils began to move hazily between this world and wherever else his mind may be. Finally, he began to close his eyes.

"No, damnit, no!" Danny said in frustration, as Steve slipped from his grasp.

The sound of wailing sirens was like a fucking church choir at that point. Danny, his hands still to his fading partner's chest, called over the medics and hoped to god that they could do what he could not.


Place unknown, Date and time unknown

"You dirty, rotten cheater!"

"I am not a cheater."

"you're counting cards!"

"So?"

"That's cheating!"

"No, it's using superior mathematics skills and powers of observation to my advantage."

"Its cheating."

"…"

"Isn't this supposed to be a proverbial chess game, anyways?"

"Yeah and I'm supposed to wear a black cloak and carry a scythe. But I'm not, am I?"

"The gun is a little disconcerting."

"Had to come prepared."

"You have that little faith in me? I'm insulted."

"Don't be. Feel honored. I meet most people under entirely different circumstances."

"Why Texas hold 'em, though?"

"Because I enjoy a good game of cards with a worthy adversary."

"Bullshit."

"Chessboard was in use?"

"You're kidding."

"I don't know. This is your limbo. I'm just an escort."

"Hardly the most uplifting of statements."

"You going to sit around and bitch all day, or are we going to play?"

"…"

"That's what I thought."


Danny would have called it the quintessential end to a rather harrowing case, if his partner was lying on an operating table, fighting for his life. Despite that, though, the case ended with nothing short of a bang.

All the Russians were dead and, thought Petrov couldn't testify at the U.N., it still felt like the only possible ending to such a long and drawn out conflict.

Danny had rode with Steve to the hospital, and witnessed him crash twice on the way to boot, as Speers tracked down Goodich and Davis. Davis, thinking he was off the hook, had started to make his way to the airport to catch a flight to Seoul. Safe to say, Davis did not make it on that plane. Goodich was informed by Speers of the situation, and last thing he knew was Speers was seen with his Admiral, escorting a struggling Davis to a Naval vehicle in chains. Danny knew they would not turn him over to the police; they would sentence him to death for treason.

Franco and Kono arrived at the hospital after Danny, and Chin follow up next with Speers in his car. Franco had to go get patched up himslef, and his partner went with, leaving only Five-0 in the desolate but paradoxically bright waiting room.

No one said anything, and no one had to. It was hard enough without the empty words of hope any of them could provide.

Hours had past, Danny thought. But at the same time, it could have been instants. It wouldn't have mattered anyway.

"Detectives?"

Danny's head shot up. Chin gently roused Kono, who had been resting on his shoulder, and they too observed the new arrival.

It was a nurse. She was petite and seemed much too small to handle the big hospital around her. Still, she stood with as much authority as she could muster and faced Danny and his team.

"What's the latest?" Chin asked, his dark eyes- as usual- shrouded in mystery.

"The Commander is still in surgery. I was instructed to come find you and warn you of what may happen."

That was hardly uplifting. She took a deep breath, and plowed on. "Should the Commander become… incapacitated… we will- as was stated in his medical information- remove him from life support."

Danny gaped. It didn't make sense. It was illogical. A chest wound.

"Why would that matter? It's a GSW to the chest." He told her, irritated. "Why would he be on life support?"

The nurse looked at him sympathetically. "You just- just never know with these things," was her less- than- ideal reply. "I'm just telling you what the Commander's decision in his written information is."

"Do you have any idea how he's doing now?"

She looked, if possible, even more sympathetic at the seemingly innocent question.

"It's touch and go right now. The bullet nicked the aorta and lodged in his liver. We don't know anything more than that right now."

With no further delay, she left.

Danny was no more informed, all things considered, than he was two minutes ago. Except that they would pull the plug if Steve went on life support. Which wouldn't happen anyways… he hoped.


"I win. Again."

"…"

"And you were cheating."

"it is not cheating. You can do it just as easily."

"Not nearly as easily. Plus, you made up the rules. I can't possibly do it if it's your game."

"If its my game, then I wasn't cheating."

"… You have a point. I still won."

"Best two out of three?"

"Do I have a choice?"

"…"

"I though not."


They let him out of surgery. The same nurse came back, looking slightly more hopeful that she did before. She said that they repaired the damage, but that Steve was disconcertingly unresponsive still.

Still, being able to see him and sit in the same room made Danny's urge to hit something subside somewhat.

Being three cops and two Navy SEALs- Speers and Franco came back with Franco on significant painkillers and sporting a stylish new sling- they had very little trouble coercing the hospital staff to let them all see Steve at once, and then to stick around for a little while longer, too.

When they filed into his room, the reaction from each of the men- and women- working with the Commander was nearly the same: uncomfortable anxiety. None of them were used to a leader who spoke so little, and who was lying in a bed, hooked up a plethora of machines with a heavily bandages torso. He was oddly serene, and obviously lacking in his usual hotheadedness and complete disregard for general safety.

It made Danny uncomfortable.

Still, he was breathing. That was always a plus. The room was meant for two patients, so they commandeered the second bed, and stretched out on hard cloth chairs to wait. And wait.

Danny looked to Speers. The man was stoic as they all were, but he kept looking at Steve with something akin to a desperate anger. Danny knew the look; he was stuck between pain and complete rage.

"Want to tell me?"

Speers looked up, surprised.

"What?"

Danny rolled his eyes. "I've worked with a deranged SEAL for months, kid," he told the younger man, "I know the faces. What's up?"

Speers looked back down at his Commander before speaking.

"I met the Commander two years ago. I was just out of the academy, and looking to prove myself. I ended up doing recon work for him on a mission in Iraq. I was trying to be a typical gunslinger hero, trying to take down the whole goddamn Taliban regime by myself. I thought I could infiltrate this insurgent uprising with just me and a couple of my guys. We ended up being made by some kid who knew we were military."

Speers looked even younger in that moment. Danny was curious; he knew very little about his partner's SEAL stories- mostly, of course, because he really didn't want to know. This was something different though; he was seeing Steve through the eyes of someone who had no choice but to trust him explicitly.

"Anyway, me and the boys were all high and mighty, thinking we had done this mission all by ourselves. That was when the goddamn sand people attacked. We'd led them right back to the fucking camp. McGarrett took down half the team of insurgents himself, and then demanded to know what happened. I told him. He said that I was noble for thinking that I could do the mission on my own, and a fucking moron for risking the lives of my men. He said 'They're your family, kid. You protect your family.'"

Speers stopped. Danny didn't know what to say, really. He didn't know what to think either, except that he needed McGarrett to wake up at some point so that Danny could hit him for being a moron, and then thank him for saving his life.


"I win."

"Dead man's hand."

"How ironic. You didn't have jack shit, of course, so it hardly matters anyway."

"Hardly."

"Luck is just not on your side today brah."

"You could argue that it is simply on yours."

"That too. Can I go?"

"Feel free. We'll have to play again sometime."

"I'm happy to say I do not look forward to that day at all."

"It will come, I assure you."

"I have no doubt."

"I will win the next time."

"I don't know brah, I'm really lucky."


It had been more than a day. No movement, no nothing for a day. The doctors were hopeful- they said that it was normal. Still, what a boring day. The nurse had come in and exchanged his ventilator for a much less intrusive cord that hovered underneath his nostrils, and told the men in the room that Steve was breathing on his own now, but still they should call if he made any strange noises. It was actually uplifting.

Danny was sitting on the bed next to Steve's, dealing out cards to Speers and Chin alike. Kono had gone home to shower, and Franco had been ordered to rest. Still, it was nice to have some company, and Danny had taken a liking to Speers.

"I fold."

"C'mon, Chin," Danny laughed. It felt good to laugh. "Where's your sense of adventure?"

"I lost it three rounds ago, back when you two cleaned me out. Maybe you should ask Steve to wake up again so he can play with you."

"I wouldn't do that…" Speers warned, not looking up from his cards. He seemed to contemplate his hand, before throwing a five on the top of the pile.

"Why?" Danny asked.

"He counts cards."

"your kidding."

He shook his head.

"That's cheating."

"Yeah but he doesn't see it that way. He calls it 'using superior math and observation skills to his advantage.'"

"Its cheating…"

"Only in Vegas."

The three men whipped around. The voice was tired, and scratchy like sandpaper, but it was a voice all the same.

"Steve, glad you could join us brah," Chin said, smiling wide. "You can play instead."

Steve winced as he pushed himself into a sitting position. Danny walked over and put a hand to the man's shoulder.

"Down."

"You make me sound like a dog."

"I'm glad your unparalleled wit wasn't damaged by the bullet in your chest."

"I'm glad Ivanov didn't do permanent damage to your face. Its got to be the money maker."

"Your such a charmer."

"I try."

Danny saw Speers lean into Chin and ask, "Is it like this all the time?"

Chin shook his head.

"Nah, its worse when they're both healthy."


The McGarrett House, some days later

Steve breathed a sigh of welcome relief. He was home. Finally, after everything, he was back in his own house. He's been shot, blown up, beaten, and whatever else, and so coming back was a great feeling.

He opened the door to the house and slowly made his way inside. His chest still ached and it was hard to move for long periods of time, but he'd managed to break the doctors down until they let him leave with more Vicodin than he knew what to do with, and strict orders to rest.

That was exactly what he planned on doing. Of course, that was going to be difficult, given that Danny Williams was sitting on the couch in his living room.

"You know, I think you're neat and all Danny," he said, "But I'm just not ready to take our relationship to the next level quite yet."

Danny whipped around and glared up at him from his place on the couch.

"You're a funny man McGarrett. I'm here under orders from the Governor. I'm supposed to make sure you actually do what you're supposed to do."

"I was going to, but your sitting on my couch."

Danny rolled his eyes. "I'm going to get you water. And you're going to take those meds and sleep fitfully so that I can spend my time wallowing in self pity."

Steve looked at him.

"That hardly sounds like fun."

Danny's reply was a grunt as he moved to the kitchen to find water.

Steve, already feeling drained, sat down on the recently vacated couch. He was asleep before he knew it. But it didn't last long, of course. Not with Danny in the house.

"Get up!"

"I thought you wanted me to sleep."

"I do. But I also want you to take your meds."

Steve cracked an eyed open to glare at Danny, who glared right back and handed him a bottle of water and two pills before sitting down in the recliner and popping a beer.

There was silence in the den for a few moments, before Danny spoke up again.

"Steve?" His tone was different, but Steve hardly noticed. The Vicodin was doing wonders; he was so high he felt absolutely no pain.

"Hmm?" was his very intelligent reply.

"Why do you set off metal detectors at the airport?"

"What?" There was an odd buzzing now that was slightly annoying.

"Speers told me that you set off metal detectors. And that you also don't drink tequila either. What's up with that?"

Steve found his question hard to follow, but dutifully answered anyway once he understood. He was floating in a painless bubble, so he had no qualms about sharing his story.

"Oh. Well, back when Speers just started with me, a few years ago I think, we were driving through the jungle when the car hit an IED." He tried really hard to think through the haze in his mind.

"My left thigh was basically crushed by falling shrapnel."

Steve didn't realize it, but he clutched at his upper leg absently, rubbing where he could feel the ropy scar tissue there. He didn't see Danny watching him with a curious look.

The rest of the guys were either dead or fine, so it was just a bunch of young SEALS and their hurt Commander and no supplies. I had to direct them on what to do while laying there in the mud. It was hard."

"What's with the tequila?"

"Oh!" Steve remembered now. "We were sitting ducks next to that truck. My thigh was mangled and bleeding and pretty much useless, but I knew we had to move to higher ground. I had Speers get me the only thing we had- a bottle of Jose Cuervo. It numbed the pain and made it easier to trek the couple hundred yards, but it also ruined tequila for me."

"So… no margaritas?"

Steve thought he might have turned green.

"Right… okay." Danny said hastily. "But what about the metal detector?"

"Oh yeah. When we get out of there, I was airlifted to a hospital in Munich. There was too much damage to the bone to let me walk again, so they put two steel rods in my leg."

"… oh."

Steve was too far gone to respond.


Danny watched as Steve grimaced and rubbed his chest. Two months after getting shot and he still felt pain. In all fairness, they did just chase down a suspect on foot, and Steve did just tackle him into the sand.

"Maybe I chase the suspects."

"My legs are longer."

"You can't breathe."

"I'm fine."

"Like hell. Go sit and try not to get shot again." He looked down at the perp on the ground. "I'll handle him."

Steve nodded, and made to open his mouth.

Danny beat him to it.

"And if you say the words 'book 'em Danno,' you will get shot."

Steve only smirked.

Fin.

A/N: thanks for sticking with me! You're awesome! Let me know if you have any interest for a sequel/ similar plot. I send you my Hershey kisses full of love.

Luna